Update (September 25, 2015): For the first time in 30 years this Sunday evening, a supermoon will coincide with a lunar eclipse, NASA says. Visible from all over the United States and much of the world, the moon will appear larger than normal.
“Because the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle, the moon is sometimes closer to the Earth than at other times during its orbit,” Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explained in a NASA press release.
Coincidentally, the eclipse will happen at the same time as Earth lines up between the sun and the moon, causing a total lunar eclipse. “The orbit of the moon around Earth is inclined to the axis of Earth and the orbital plane of all these things just falls into place every once in a while. When the rhythms line up, you might get three to four eclipses in a row or a supermoon and an eclipse happening,” Petro said.
The supermoon/lunar eclipse combo won’t occur again until 2033. In honor of this spectacular lunar event, we dug up this earlier story on the amazing ways the moon might affect your body.
Sunday marks the second supermoon of the summer. The Instagram-worthy lunar event occurs when the monthly full moon coincides with the point in the moon’s orbit where it’s closest to Earth—meaning it looks bigger and brighter than usual. The best time to watch it will be after the sunset in your area when the moon starts to rise.
NASA says supermoons sometime only happen once a year, but this summer we’ll have three in a row. The last supermoon happened on Saturday, July 12, and there will be another on September 8.
While you’re out taking in the view, you might wonder: do full moons actually make people go crazy? (Lunatic does come from the latin luna, or moon, after all.) Research has mostly debunked that theory, but here are four other weird ways the full moon might affect us.
It may regulate your menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle in reproductive-age women lasts about 28 days, which is similar to the length of a lunar phase (29 days and change). But they may be more closely tied: A 2011 study in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica tracked the menstrual cycles of 826 women aged 16 to 25 years. Nearly 30% of the women had their period around the full moon. The next biggest grouping of women menstruating during a certain phase of the moon was just 12.5% of the participants.
RELATED: 10 Things That Mess With Your Period
It could lead to an uptick in births
This one’s tricky: only the supermoon could possibly have this effect, not the fact that it’s a full moon. Researchers tracked 1,000 births in a private hospital in Kyoto, Japan, where the mothers hadn’t been induced. They found that more babies were born the closer the moon was to the Earth, when the gravitational pull is the strongest. However, a full moon—which is unrelated to gravitational pull—had no obvious effect.
It might mess with your sleep
For a study in the journal Current Biology, participants spent three and a half days in a sleep lab where they couldn’t see clocks or outside light. They were allowed to fall asleep and wake up as they normally would. The Swiss researchers collected sleep data from 33 people and compared it to the phases of the moon. They found that in the four days before and after a full moon, participants took 5 minutes longer to fall asleep, slept 20 minutes less overall, and had 30% less deep sleep. They also had lower levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. This is one of the first studies to establish a link between sleep and our circalunar clock, and the researchers now want to track 30 days’ worth of sleep in individuals. But other research on the subject is mixed and couldn’t replicate past results.
It may affect surgery outcomes
Researchers found that patients who had an emergency heart surgery called acute aortic dissection repair during a full moon had shorter hospital stays and were less likely to die than patients who had the same operation during two other moon phases. According to a 2013 study in the journal Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, patients who had their surgery during a full moon stayed in hospital for 10 days, 4 days shorter than people who had their surgery during other lunar cycles. But unfortunately, you can’t schedule emergency heart surgery.